Considering camper life? In 2014, our family of 3 seemed a little out of our minds when we broke the news to our family that we were selling our custom-built home and moving into an RV to begin RV living.
Especially since we had never even been camping before! Read on to learn why our family jumped into camper life and how RV living is going 8 years later.
(This article contains affiliate links. When you purchase using these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep the content on this site free which is a win win for both of us! See the Disclaimer.)
Would You Believe Me If I Told You We Had Never Been In An RV Before Moving Into One?
Many people have owned a camper or have at least gone camping before deciding to RV fulltime. Our family is definitely an exception to this, but we are a bit crazy like that.
Not only had we never owned an RV before, but we had never even been camping before as a family. We never tent camped or even stayed in a campground before.
Talk about scary to take the plunge and sell everything we owned to move into an RV we knew nothing about. I was terrified but also driven to make this work out for our family.
Once this dream was placed into our hearts, there was no going back. Read on to find out why!
We Didn’t Know That Camper Life Was The Answer We Were Looking For
Our family always had a strong feeling that we wanted more time together and more experiences. With a house to keep up with, a young daughter, and two full-time jobs, there was never much time or money left for traveling.
We did take yearly road trips within our home state of Missouri for quick weekend getaways.
Those trips were a blast, but we really wanted to take our daughter to some of the most special places in our country, especially the national parks.
When you live in the middle of the Midwest, taking trips to national parks is not a short or cheap weekend excursion. In fact, my daughter and I had never been to a national park before.
Beyond the desire to have more experiences, no matter how much time we spent together, we just always felt that we didn’t have enough.
We had a strong feeling that we wanted more time and living in our life, but how? It seemed like such an abstract desire.
We also went through a series of family tragedies that reminded us how short life really could be. Life can be taken in a moment, and our eyes were opened wide to the fact that time is never guaranteed.
We always talked about traveling more when we retired someday. We even tossed around the idea of having a motorhome as a retired couple when we were older.
The series of tragic events in our family had us asking the question, how many people actually make it to retirement?
When people do make it to retirement, how many of them are healthy enough and able to still do the things they dreamed of?
Neither of my parents lived long enough to enjoy retirement. In fact, my dad died in his 50s. The raw truth is that life and time are uncertain.
We could be waiting on a day that never comes, and that really bothered us. I didn’t want to go through life dreaming of the future. I wanted to live it now while we were young and able.
Plus, we also wanted to have these kinds of experiences together as a family while our daughter was still home with us.
Those years when our children are young and still at home are short, and we knew we wanted to take advantage of the precious time we do have together.
The problem was that we had no clue how to do it!
How Did We Get The Idea For RV Living Full-Time?
One day I was talking to a friend when she shared that she had decided to sell her house and take her husband and two small kids on the road in an RV.
She shared her desire to homeschool while also traveling and working on the road. I thought at the time that she had lost her mind.
She was a local photographer with a beautiful new home and was homeschooling her two young children. It looked like she had a perfect life going already.
She was completely serious about this new life plan and had already put their family home on the market. I was shocked!
How does one make a decision like this? What a crazy idea to live in such a small space. How can they afford this? What about their stuff? What about the kids?
I literally had a ton of questions swirling around in my head.
I walked away from the conversation, completely shocked and even feeling a little confused about what my friend was talking about.
This conversation was in 2013, and few young people and even fewer families traveled full-time back then. This was basically unheard of.
In a few weeks, my confusion turned into curiosity, and I began picking my friend’s brain about how her family planned to afford to make this full time RVing lifestyle happen.
That curiosity turned into action in our own household as well when I started trying to figure out if the RV living lifestyle was right for our family. Could this be the answer we were looking for?
Why Were We Drawn To Full Time RV Living
We had often talked about fulfilling this desire to have more time together and travel more by downsizing our home into something cheaper.
We even looked at tiny homes and small cabins on land to see if cutting our expenses would be the savings we needed to live closer to our dreams.
So when this seed was planted in my head that we could sell everything, move into an RV, travel the country, work less, and have more time together, we just knew that we needed to try it.
It was completely scary to think about walking away from our house and all of our stuff. What if we didn’t like this lifestyle?
We knew that once we decided to go for it, we would need to commit to RV living for at least 2 years to make it worth letting all of our possessions go.
It wouldn’t make sense to sell everything if we didn’t plan to pursue traveling for at least a couple of years.
We went for it. We sold the house, both cars, and almost everything we owned. We bought a 5th wheel RV to live in along with a dually truck and drove away from it all debt free!
Was Living In An RV Full-Time The Answer We Were Looking For?
I will tell you that we have been on the road now for almost 8 years. We don’t miss our house and belongings. In fact, the day we drove away felt extremely freeing.
It was very scary to take this risk, but often in life, the biggest rewards come after leaving your comfort zone.
We didn’t know if we would enjoy the RV lifestyle, but we also didn’t want to live wondering what if. That is exactly what it would have been like to not pursue this dream.
We felt so strongly led to living in an RV and traveling that we just couldn’t say no.
It turned out that camper life really was perfect for our family. It isn’t always easy, but we did get the time together and the experiences that we were seeking. It is worth it!
What Is The Best Part Of Living In A Camper Full Time?
The best part of living in an RV has been the incredible memories we have made together as a family through our travels.
When we lived in our house, we always knew that we wanted more time together and more experiences, but we could never put our finger on what we were searching for.
In our first two weeks of camper life, our daughter visited her first national park and saw the ocean for the first time. I also visited my first national park and had my first mountain experience.
By week 3, we were in Florida, taking our daughter to Disney World for the first time and enjoying an epic family vacation. We would have never had enough money or time off of work for a trip like this while living in our house.
In just the first month on the road, we already had a lifetime of experiences and memories.
That alone was worth the sacrifice, but of course, the traveling adventure continued through 42 states over the years.
Those memories made and the time spent together is priceless. No one ever lies on their deathbed and says that they wish they lived in a bigger house.
They say that they wish they had more time together with loved ones and more life experiences.
That has been the gift that stepping out of our comfort zone and living in an RV full-time has given us.
What Is The Most Challenging Part Of RV Living Full Time?
The hardest part of full time RV living is when something breaks or someone gets sick/hurt, and you have to change your plans.
That may not sound like much, but in camper life, all of your reservations are consecutive. There is no place to go home to rest or have repairs made.
When you have to cancel one reservation, the reservations behind it all fall like dominoes. Sometimes you can adjust and still get back on track with your plans.
While other times you are at the mercy of RV repair shops or medical appointments, and you can’t carry on with your travel arrangements.
This can be an extra challenging problem during peak seasons like winter in Florida when it is very hard to get camping reservations.
We have had to change reservations before and scramble to find another place to stay because everything was booked. This is the hardest part of RV living.
It’s hard because of the uncertainty that comes with problems that just aren’t in your control. When you add how difficult it can be to get campsite reservations, it can quickly become a stressful situation.
We have had this happen a few different times in our years on the road.
Once when reservations fell apart, we paid an insane amount of money from our savings to get a monthly campsite during the winter in Florida so we had a place to be.
A few other times, we had to stay in a hotel for an extended amount of time while having RV repairs done. It all goes back to being flexible and having a good budget for repairs to make it in this lifestyle.
These kinds of situations will be stressful no matter what you do, but if you keep a flexible mindset that it will all work out and you will have another chance at any missed travels, then it will make it easier.
A few times when our plans have completely fallen apart, we have rerouted and had an incredible experience that we may never have had if things hadn’t gone sideways.
If We Could Go Back To The Beginning Of Full Time Camper Living, What One Thing Would We Change?
If we could start over with living in an RV full time, would we change anything? Absolutely! We would start with a completely different RV setup.
When you are doing something brand new that you have no experience with, you are bound to make mistakes. We made a mistake with the type and size of RV we chose.
It’s easy to think that when you are downsizing from a large house to tiny living in an RV, you would want to get the biggest RV possible.
We felt like we needed to have as much living space as we could find to be able to make this transition.
We also thought we needed to bring and have room for a lot more clothing and possessions in the RV than we actually needed to bring along.
We purchased a 40-foot 5th-wheel RV and a big dually truck to tow it with. As soon as we realized we could get 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in an RV, we went for it.
Our thinking at the time was that we wanted to be sure that our daughter had her own space for her toys and to play. We wanted the easiest transition for her to RV life.
Getting a large fifth wheel with her own bunkroom and bathroom in the back seemed like the perfect solution for the whole family to have enough space.
The problem is that we quickly found out that we should have put more thought into the way we wanted to travel versus the space of the RV when we were parked.
For example, we love to camp in state parks and national parks, but many of those campsites aren’t big enough for large RVs.
Plus, travel days are not as comfortable when you have to pull over to get inside to use the bathroom.
The kicker is that we didn’t just make the mistake of buying the wrong RV once, but we turned around and did it a second time!
We later switched to an even bigger 41-foot mid-bunk 5th wheel to have a larger living area and kitchen space.
By that time, we were 4 years into traveling, so we should have known better. Once again, we were lured by all the new options and the extra space.
If I could start over again, we would get a smaller motorhome with bunkbeds and tow a Jeep behind it. This way, we could fit into more state and national park campgrounds.
The Jeep would also be much easier to sightsee in and park. Having the large dually truck needed to tow our heavy 5th wheel is not at all fun to drive around town.
We chose to stay a one-vehicle family to keep costs low and to be able to stay in more places, but when your only vehicle is oversized, it’s incredibly stressful to find parking that you fit in.
Our advice to anyone getting started with RVing full-time, is to think about what space requirements you have and balance that with the types of places to wish to stay in your RV.
The honest truth is that it is hard to find the right balance of space and maneuverability for RV living. You want enough space to live in, but this can limit your options for places you can stay.
Usually, an RV is either comfortable for travel days or comfortable to live in when parked, but often not both.
Do We Have Any Regrets Living In An RV Full Time?
We don’t regret our decision to become full time RVers. We are very thankful that we decided to go for it. If we wouldn’t have decided to try RV living, then we would have always wondered what if.
The urge to live differently and pave our own path was too great to ignore, and I am so glad we were brave enough back then to take the risk.
I do have some regrets involving how we traveled. I explained above that I wish we had gone with a smaller RV from the start so we would have stayed in the national parks.
Now that we have been to 37 national parks so far, I wish that we could go back and stay at the campgrounds inside the parks.
I also wish that we had traveled a little slower to see and experience more in each area we visited. Some areas we just didn’t have enough time at.
While I would like to say that we will go back someday, I wish we would have just traveled slower, to begin with.
Traveling too fast is actually a very common mistake that new full time RVers often make.
The beginning of the RV lifestyle is very exciting, and many feel the need to try to see as much and do as much as possible.
This is understandable since many people that RV fulltime don’t know how long they will be on the road.
If I could go back to the beginning, I would plan to stay longer in each destination and take more photos and videos to really remember as many travel moments as possible.
When I look back on our first year on the road traveling full-time, I am disappointed by how few photos I took. Even worse, I took almost no videos during the first few years.
I think we were running from place to place so quickly and trying to cram so much into each stop that I didn’t slow down to really take it all in and capture the moments. I do regret that part.
What Is Our Top Tip For Those Getting Started In The RV Fulltime Lifestyle?
The best full time RV living tip is to have both a decent savings account and a monthly budget for RV and vehicle repairs.
The honest truth is that RVs break often, and with the heavy travel and daily use demands of full time RVing, there is always something broken.
Sometimes the repairs are small and other times, they are very large, expensive repairs.
Even with a new RV that is under manufacturer warranty or with an extended warranty, there will still be expenses for RV repairs and maintenance.
Not only are repairs expensive, but you may also need to stay in a hotel while your RV is being worked on. All of this requires budget planning.
To be transparent with you, we have stayed in hotels 5 times over almost 8 years of living in an RV while having repairs done.
This is an emergency expense that should be part of your budget.
Just take the pressure off of yourself by budgeting for repairs each month. You will be so glad you did!
Also, consider using mobile repair services whenever possible to avoid giving your RV over to a repair facility.
When you have to leave your RV, it can often take much longer than they say it will, and it can really be an inconvenience for living in a camper full time.
By using a mobile repair service whenever possible, you can stay in your rig during repairs and have fewer interruptions to your travel plans.
Some RV extended warranty services even cover mobile repair services. Check out XtraRide, which is what we use and recommend.
How Is Full-Time RV Living Going Today?
We still enjoy living in a camper full time and traveling. It does look much different now than from the beginning of our adventure.
Now we travel much shorter distances and stay in each place longer. We have found a pace for RV living that allows plenty of time for exploring but also time for daily living and rest.
We have been able to see and experience so much during our years of RV traveling, but we also have to make sure we have the time to complete work and homeschool as we RV travel without feeling burnt out.
It’s great to be flexible and to adjust your travel schedule as needed to keep a pace that works best for your family. It’s not a race to get to every state and every national park.
Always remember that this is your unique adventure. It can be easy to fall into the comparison trap, but you are on your own unique journey and no one else’s!
How Long Do We Plan To Keep Living In An RV?
We often get asked how much longer we will continue to RV fulltime. The truth is that we have no idea! We are open to traveling as long as it is still working well for our family.
After almost 8 years of full time RVing, our RV feels like our home, and traveling feels like our normal everyday way of living.
We are flexible though, and open to the idea of stopping for a while or even putting down roots again if a great opportunity presents itself.
We never know what tomorrow will bring, but we are open-minded and thankful for the ability to live this way.
FAQs About Camper Life And RV Living
Is Full Time RV Living Worth It?
Full time RV living is worth it for the travel experiences, quality time spent together, and the memories made. It isn’t always an easy or cheap lifestyle, but it is a one-of-a-kind life experience!
What RV Is Best For Full Time Living?
The best RV for full time living has the space requirements you need for daily living while also not being too big to fit in the types of places you wish to camp at in your travels. Consider the size you are most comfortable driving and if you would like to stay in national park campgrounds.
Is Living In An RV Cheaper Than Renting?
Living in an RV can be cheaper than renting in some parts of the country. Monthly campground rates and utilities can be cheaper than rent. If you own your RV or have a small payment, then you could save money living in an RV.
Is A Horse Trailer With Living Quarters Considered An RV?
If you purchase a horse trailer with living quarters, it may already be RVIA certified as an RV. If a horse trailer is converted to live in, it often won’t be certified. Many campgrounds don’t require RVIA certification, so you can choose to stay at places without this rule.
Is Living In An RV Cheaper Than A House?
Living in an RV can be cheaper than a house, depending on where you like to stay and how you like to travel. Boondocking and spending little on activities is often much cheaper than living in a house. Staying in RV resorts and traveling far distances can be as costly as a house or even more.
Is Living In An RV Park Cheaper?
Living in an RV park can be cheaper than living in a house or apartment. You can find less expensive monthly or annual rates to live stationary in an RV campground which also includes water, sewer, and sometimes cable. Often the only extra utility to pay is electricity.
What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Fifth Wheel Camper?
Depending on how it is stored and maintained, the life expectancy of a fifth wheel camper can be 10 to 20 years. Proper roof maintenance and water sealing can prolong the use of a fifth wheel. Water damage and delamination decrease the life of an RV.
How Can I Make My Camper Life Easier?
Camper life is much easier with a flexible mindset and an emergency savings account. It helps to embrace both the good times and the challenges as part of the adventure. It’s not always easy, but camper life is worth it for the travel experiences and quality time together.
What Is The Average Life Of A Pop Up Camper?
Depending on how it is stored and maintained, the life expectancy of a pop up camper can be 10 to 15 years. Proper seal maintenance, roof maintenance, and covered storage can increase the life of a pop up camper for more years of enjoyment.
Are You Considering Camper Life?
I hope this article gave you some new ideas about what it’s like to get started with camper life. Living in an RV isn’t always easy, but it is worth it for the experience. If RV living is your dream, I hope you decide to go for it!
Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!